IUMA: Darshan Ambient
- Darshan Ambient
This is Michael's first new release in several years and we are happy to bring him back into the mainstream with what we consider his strongest work to date!
The following is a review of Autumn's Apple by Ben Fleury-Steiner.
Autumn's Apple Darshan Ambient Lotuspike
First things first. I mean talk about big shoes to fill!?! I gushed over the organic, multi-instrumental, world-ambient artistry of the inaugral Lotuspike release, The Gate by Terra Ambient, so my expectations were very, very high going into Autumn's Apple by Darshan Ambient(Michael Allison).
Would this record create its own voice? A voice as memorable and penetratingly original, as its label's predecessor?
In a word, yes.
In fact, I walk away firmly believing--I suspected as such on Darshan Ambient's self-released gem The Zen Master's Diary--but now I can honestly say: No ambient artist out there today has better understood and internalized the most influential ambient record of all time (IMHO), Brian Eno's 1978 release Ambient I: Music for Airports then Michael Allison.
This kind of discreet precise approach to note selection and soundscaping cannot be taught. And Allison demonstrates this once again with his simply virtuosic playing and composing on this release; not a single note on it is wasted or excessive.
What is even more impressive is that this is by no means Eno-redux (i.e., boringly minimalist music that drones on and on like musac). To the contrary, Allison caresses the listener with luminescent notes that circulate in, around, and through very dynamic, percussion infused arrangements...
One of the many pitfalls of this kind of music, of course, is that the rhythmic elements can swamp the piano thus undermining what is truly ambient about the work (I have heard many releases when this is the case and the songs invariably become forgettable and thus forgotten in the heap)...
Instead, Allison pulls off a remarkable feat: Each and every track, and thus the work as a whole, accomplishes a wonderfully balanced rhythmic and atmospheric ambience. But more than a demonstration of impressive technical skill, the sounds that emanate from the core of Autumn's Apple feel effortless.
A few specifics about each of Autumn's Apple's 9 tracks:
Autumn's Apple begins with "Azure Day," a composition of slowly evolving tone-scapes and an accompanying high hat that morphs into a groovier beat loop that itself expands. The conga-like percussion lends a nice organic feel that carries the listener into the twinklingly seductive daylight--a sky of deep azure, indeed.
"Deep Garden" has a wonderfully Enoesque opening of slow piano progressions. Once again the high hat that blossoms into a thickly layered backbeat propulses us forward deep into the garden's lush landscape. The synth, however, stays patiently focused--it breathes, disappears, and then reappears seemlessly throughout the mix. Allison really demonstrates his brilliant composer's ear on this track.
"Pastorale" is simply a beautiful track. I won't even try to spoil it with words. It is just too mesmerizing and must be experienced to be appreciated.
"Acre of Sun" starts with a very funky back beat that grows and then snakes around the patient twinkling of Allison's keys. The wonderful contrast between observation and movement is clearly realized once again.
"Sea Stars for Tristen" is the album's most epic sounding piece: Allison's tribute to his newborn son. The observation-movement dynamic remains: A proud father cradles his lightly sleeping newborn son. A feeling of wonderous awe.
"Rain Parade" opens with a nice tight, in-the-pocket back beat. The metallic, breathy drones grow slowly forward. The melody on this track may be as strong as "Pastorale." I'm undecided. The rhythmics are also quite fascinating on tis track: the stutters fall forward like rain drops against glass.
Listening to "Pebble in My Shoe" creates a very interesting sensation: I find myself both relaxing and tapping my foot. This track also has very effective bridge section--it is somehow constantly rhythmic and spacious at the same time.
The title track opens with soft blurps of atmospheric synth that slowly evolve into something much bigger: Life's inescapable inertia. We are constantly changing "colors" and nature is as well: Autumn. As the backbeat builds and propulses along with a lovely melody we, the listener, are reminded of this pronounced time for growth and change--from seed to tree to flower to apple. Allison's ode to the changing colors of this inescapable passage on the seasonal cycle is at once heartfelt and toe tapping.
The last track "Man in the Window" in many ways is an accurate reflection of the album as a whole. Here, Allison takes a very daring step for an ambient artist: He lends his soft, throaty Peter Gabrielesque vocals to the mix. I admit that I went into listening to this track just waiting on the edge of my chair to shake my head at the trite, new agey cliche that I thought would follow.
Surprisingly, these preconceptions were mistaken.
Allison uses his vocals very purposefully to add an additional layer of emotive resonance to the mix. In essence, the vocals on this track may be thought of as providing one perspective--the man looking out through the window. Taken together, the vocals behind "the glass" and the wide open sonic landscapes that the piano creates in front of it combine to form the song's central narrative: The relationship of man to the physical world. We, the listener, are both behind and in front of the glass that opens to these picturesque, beautiful vistas.
"The Man in the Window" succeeds because it, like the other eight tracks on Autumn's Apple, are heartflet infusions of sonic poetry.
Autumn's Apple is heartfelt poetry-in- effortless-motion. A poetry that does not shy away from its inspirations; the birth of Allison's son, Tristen, being Autumn's Apple's most audible. Strongly recommended to those who truly appreciate virtuosic ambient artistry and songmanship. ****1/2 (out of *****)
- 2012-05-27 07:56:35
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